Week In Review

November 25, 2007


City prepares for peace conference

The date is finally set, and the invitations to guests of this week's Mideast peace conference in Annapolis have been sent. And in the host city for Tuesday's talks at the Naval Academy, local residents are looking to find even the smallest ways to take part.

The city is expected to have a very limited role in the international event, but the local government and businesses are relishing the chance to welcome foreign diplomats and hundreds of media representatives -- even if that means only lining the streets with American flags, putting out "peace" cookies for hotel guests or renaming a sandwich for a dignitary.

"On a global stage, this is big stuff," Laura Strachan, 49, of Annapolis, said last night as she walked her dog along City Dock. "It will probably cause parking and traffic problems. But it will be worth it."

Maryland section, Wednesday

Anne Arundel

SMART fund bill addition gets push

The Anne Arundel County Council will debate legislation that would charge most homeowners $30 a year to pay for repairs to damaged local waterways, after its proponents found an unlikely ally: a councilman who fiercely opposes the bill.

C. Edward Middlebrooks cast the crucial fourth vote Monday night, amending County Executive John R. Leopold's so-called SMART fund. While Leopold's plan would levy a fee only on property owners who built new impervious surfaces, such as patios, homes and parking lots, the new legislation calls for an "all-payer" system that would also include a sliding-scale charge on most commercial and industrial properties.

"I've been against this bill from day one, but if you feel this strongly about it, let's have a good public debate," Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican, told the amendment's sponsors.

He made it clear that council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Republican, and Democrats Josh Cohen and Jamie Benoit must look elsewhere for a fourth vote required to pass the new fee.

"This is an issue that needs to be addressed by the entire region, and shouldn't be put just on the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County," he said.

Anne Arundel section, Wednesday


Regulations on ash dumps offered

The O'Malley administration has issued proposed regulations meant to stop the leaking of acidic waste and toxic metals from coal ash dumps.

Maryland's eight coal-fired power plants each year produce about 2 million tons of ash, which is caught in filters and then buried in a half-dozen landfills, some of which leak. The new rules, released Monday, would require that all new ash dumps have liners and runoff collection systems so rain can't wash pollutants into underground streams.

The Maryland Department of the Environment decided to draft the rules -- the state's first for ash dumps -- after activists expressed alarm about a landfill in Gambrills that released carcinogenic metals, including arsenic, into the drinking wells of 23 homes.

"We are proposing to address some current deficiencies in our regulations," said assistant MDE secretary Steve Pattison. "We want to prevent any similar situations in the future [and] ... protect Maryland's water resources."

The regulations also would require the reporting of all ash that is dumped and the installation of rings of groundwater monitoring wells around new dumps. The wells would test for pollutants and alert the state if any nearby homes are threatened with contaminated well water.

The proposed rules will be reviewed by a legislative advisory committee, published on Dec. 21 and then discussed at a public hearing at 10 a.m. Feb. 5 at MDE headquarters in Baltimore. The agency will issue final rules after that.

Maryland section, Tuesday

Fort Meade

Weighing payments in lieu of taxes

Maryland officials are seeking potentially controversial legislation enabling state and local governments to seek payments in lieu of taxes from private developers building commercial projects on military bases.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is overseeing the state's base-growth planning efforts, said new legislation was needed to give local and state officials more "flexibility" in seeking such payments. Anne Arundel County and state officials have been pressing, so far without success, for the developer of an office park at Fort Meade to help defray the costs of road improvements needed to ease traffic around the base.

Army officials are negotiating deals with private developers to lease land at Meade and Aberdeen for large office complexes, in return for the developers building a golf course and other improvements. Army officials have vowed to cooperate with local and state officials in addressing any off-base impacts of those private developments, but have warned that any move to tax or charge fees to such projects may kill them.

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